Packaging & Economics 101

by Todd McDonald on October 2, 2012

China’s rapid growth has been in the news for several years now, but everyone is also aware of the associated environmental costs. With the expansion of industrial manufacturing and the proliferation of automobiles in the country, citizens of the nation have grown accustomed to the hazy sky caused by massive air pollution. While China’s growth is certainly driving the country forward, the pollution has unfortunately created a negative externality – an unforeseen or unintended consequence accompanying a process or activity.

Externalities, both positive and negative, exist universally, and packaging producers are certainly bound by this economic reality.

To this end, earlier this month in the Packaging Digest article “Bad Packaging Designs Perpetuate Negative Costs to Our Communities,” Minal Mistry, a senior manager at GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, enumerated some of the externalities caused by plastics manufacturing. These included, but were not limited to litter, municipal solid waste (MSW) collection and processing costs, and pollution and habitat destruction resulting from material sourcing.

While there are many sources of these negative externalities, the healthcare industry is certainly a major one, responsible for sending an enormous amount of recyclable plastics to an early grave. In fact, according to the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council, (HPRC) hospitals and medical facilities produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste annually, a large percentage of which is plastic from sterile packaging. Although much of this discarded material is recyclable, very little is because Sterile Barrier Systems (SBS) are typically fabricated from multiple materials, and hospital staff simply don’t have the time or interest to separate the plastics for recycling. In order to reduce these environmental impacts, Mistry argues that optimizing design is essential.

We agree.

Seeing this challenge, we created TEQethyleneTM a Sterile Barrier System (SBS) solution which utilizes a new, proprietary blend of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) in combination with TYVEK (also made from HDPE) for a mono material, more easily recycled package. A simple design optimization with the potential to yield a powerful result when it comes to reducing negative externalities in sterile medical packaging.

What are some strategies your company has developed to reduce negative externalities?

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